Name: Theo

Role: Natural History Collection Volunteer

Volunteer work is vital when trying to extract the most value from a collection, particularly large and complex ones, which require a wealth of different skill sets. The Natural History collection at Colchester + Ipswich Museums covers everything from prepared skins of birds and mammals, to exotic spiders preserved in alcohol. Volunteers typically specialise in one area where they have the most expertise, allowing a more comprehensive and detailed picture of the collection to be built up. I work with the fossil and geological material, also helping out with some of the invertebrate groups, such as the insects. This is particularly rewarding, as it enables me to gain knowledge of other fields under the expert guidance of the volunteers who focus on them.

My work with Colchester + Ipswich Museums has enabled me to have prolonged access to a working collection, giving me valuable practical experience in museum curation and the specialist science that backs up the study of natural history. Volunteering is vital if you’re attracted to a career in museums, as I am, and is an excellent way to build on the interests you have, be they in Natural History, Archaeology, Art, Social History, or any of the other topics covered by the collections. The work done by volunteers makes a visible, lasting impact on the collections as a whole, helping to make them more accessible and better understood, and opens them up for use as a resource for public learning and key scientific study.